Winnipeg man faces fraud charges in international online ad scam
Over 50 people in Canada, U.S. and Europe said they lost total of $230K in alleged scams
A Winnipeg man faces dozens of fraud-related charges after more than 50 people from across North America and Europe said they were scammed through online ads.
The victims lost a total of $230,000 through scams allegedly run by Michael Odine, according to court documents. None of the money has been recovered to date, says the Winnipeg Police Service.
Commercial crime investigators had identified an "active mass marketing fraud scheme" involving romance, employment and rental advertisements starting in March, according to police.
The scheme was based in the city and involved a fraudster posting advertisements or responding to other people's ads, often communicating with victims by email and text messages, police said.
"Certainly it appears that we had an individual in our own backyard that was defrauding individuals around the world of significant sums of money," Const. Jason Michalyshen, a police spokesman, said Tuesday.
"This individual has been identified as someone who was actively either posting or pursuing advertisements online and essentially defrauding people on a variety of levels, internationally, and obtaining money through ... money orders or money transfers and things like that."
Michalyshen described the fraud investigation as "very involved," with members of the service's commercial crime unit contacting people across Canada, the United States and Europe.
"You can only imagine the involvement with respect to reaching out to these different jurisdictions, reaching out to these victims in these different communities, receiving statements, gathering information, banking information, statements, and really trying to put together a report and a package that would warrant charges," he said.
"I can tell you there is nothing simple about this matter and it's nothing simple about the investigation that investigators were involved in."
Odine has been charged with more than 50 fraud-related offences as a result of the investigation.
The man lives in Winnipeg but is not a Canadian citizen, said Michalyshen, who added that there is no indication at this time that anyone else was involved.